Pitch Staircase #2

Pitch staircase: How to take people on a journey, step by step

Pitch staircase: How to take people on a journey, step by step

Dave Hertig, CEO networker

Dave Hertig and his company Boom help progressive CEOs with business growth issues. Dave worked with hundreds of CEOs during his time as a journalist and content marketer and decided to focus his business on their specific challenges. He is part of the team of authors of “The Content Entrepreneur” (2024), the book by Joe “Godfather Of Content Marketing” Pulizzi & Friends.

I understood the editing assignment as follows and acted accordingly: I am to shorten the post (without “About Dave”) from 6556 characters by 1417 characters to just over 5100 characters so that the post alone fits on the 3 pages.

Before shortening, I had 6900 characters including About Dave and comments. Minus 1400 makes 5500 to 5600 characters as the target length.

Pitching is like climbing stairs

Kevin Harrington is a Shark from the very beginning. Sharks are the names given to the investors in the hit US show “Shark Tank”. The pitch format for entrepreneurs then conquered the world with similar shows in other countries: Dragon’s Den, Lion’s Den, Money Tigers etc.

Thanks to a mentorship program, I had the privilege of presenting my business to Kevin in workshops and away from the TV stage and learning from him about pitching.

If I extract his pitch formula from his typical investment context and supplement it with my own experiences, the following essence emerges.

This is what a successful pitch does:

  1. Attract attention
  2. Formulate the problem and solution
  3. Position yourself uniquely
  4. Demonstrate the great potential
  5. Show or illustrate the benefits
  6. Mention additional functionalities
  7. The magical transformation of the buyer as a story
  8. Research and analysis: rational arguments
  9. Testimonials: who are the advocates?
  10. Irresistible offer

A passionate appearance is a big plus – says Kevin too.

At my company Boom, we speak to CEOs. CEOs are constantly pitched and, to put it bluntly, they have no time. The other part of the truth is that they make a lot of time for their priorities. For what moves their company forward.

They achieve this forward movement by focusing on their core issues:

  • People performance 
  • Networking with interesting people
  • Solving problems that currently exist
  • Strategic work
  • Understanding trends and developments

A perfect pitch for CEOs must focus on what moves them.

Successful business leaders develop an inner decision-making machine over the course of their career and CEOs often embody the top version of this. Many things run in a yes/no pattern. Taking time for something is associated with high personal costs in terms of energy and time. When in doubt, CEOs therefore answer no as quickly as possible. This saves them time, which they invest where they see the greatest possible leverage effect.

With complex issues, it is impossible for us to say everything important within 20 seconds. If we see the other party as a decision-making machine and want to move our project forward at the same time, there is only one way to succeed: the perfect pitch offers the other party the chance to say yes again and again every few seconds. Yes to listening for another 20 seconds, then another 7 and then another 15, until they are ready to engage in a comprehensive conversation – the first big moment of our journey together.

I visualize this as a pitch staircase: the pitch is always about the next yes and every single, small yes is a step on the staircase.

Your counterpart is unlikely to say no to five of the points you mention and then suddenly mentally take a six-step leap and suddenly feel positive about your offer.

Instead, it takes a lot of inner yes-saying to make the joint journey work during the pitch. That’s how our brain works.

We either succeed in climbing the pitch staircase together with the person we are addressing, step by step, or we lose their interest. Each next step must promise a small next (knowledge) gain.

When climbing the stairs together, it may become clear that the two parties are not compatible. No problem. Both sides save time from now on.

If, on the other hand, it should have been a good fit between the two parties, but the other person drops out anyway, we revise the pitch further.

A good example of how walking the stairs together can work is an attractively designed book.

  • Step 1: Interesting cover. I pick it up.
  • Stage 2: Interesting promise in the title. Can the author really deliver?
  • Stage 3: Interesting credibility signal: testimonial, reference to bestseller list or – online – reviews and stars.
  • Level 4: Interesting blurb text. This actually seems to be for me.
  • Level 5: Interesting table of contents. Several chapters are relevant to my situation
  • Level 6: Interesting elements when leafing through. I buy the book.
  • Level 7: Interesting read. Can I work with the author? Next steps?

If the person you are approaching is a good fit for us and our offer, the perfect pitch is not an egotistical-manipulative construct, but a well-crafted service.


Find links to videos on the topic and further information on the pitch staircase at www.boom.ceo/pitch-staircase

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